November 20, 2013

CWS Extends Relief, Recovery Aid to Storm-battered US Midwest

Storm-damaged House
This house in South Bend, IN, was destroyed by a tree blown over by straight-line winds. Photo: Patricia Williams

Church World Service is actively involved with all entities engaged in the relief and recovery efforts following severe weather Sunday, Nov. 17, that battered hundreds of households in 14 US. Midwestern states. 

The first 200 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets are on their way now to Illinois, the state hardest hit by Sunday’s devastating string of tornadoes, hail and high-wind events. 

“(Our) cleanup kits are in short supply,” reported the American Red Cross Chicago Region in its request to CWS.  The CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets are scheduled to reach Chicago Friday morning for distribution as soon as possible – most likely Friday or Saturday – in Coal City, near Joliet, Ill.

A city of 15,000, Coal City was hit by an EF-2 tornado.  Two hundred homes have been affected, 80 of them suffering major damage, according to Adam Runkle of the Red Cross.

It’s the second time this year that a wide swath of Illinois has been battered by severe weather.  In May, 48 Illinois counties were declared disaster areas after heavy precipitation resulted in widespread and severe flooding.  Hundreds of CWS Cleanup Buckets were distributed by the Red Cross and other agencies to flood survivors in Chicago and Peoria.

In October, CWS followed up with its Long-Term Recovery Tools and Training workshops in Chicago, Lisle and Peoria, Ill., for scores of participants engaged in helping meet the still unmet needs of Illinois flood survivors.  “Recovery Tools and Training” is a CWS program and has been used across the country to assist local communities in their long-term recovery efforts.

Then disaster struck again.  Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and straight line winds of more than 80 mph hit the Middle Mississippi River Valley, the lower Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley on Sunday, Nov. 17.  There were 91 tornadoes, 565 high wind events and 42 hail events, with reports of golf ball-sized hail, according to a preliminary report from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center. 

Of 14 states, the hardest hit was Illinois, where seven counties have been declared disaster areas by the governor: Champaign, Massac, Peoria, Tazewell, Vermillion, Washington and Woodford.  The governor has added six additional counties that sustained minor damage to the declaration.

Six persons were reported killed in Illinois and three in Michigan, with more than 200 reported injured in various states.  As many as 750,000 people were without power as of late Sunday night. Two of the Illinois tornadoes appear to have been EF-4: that in Minden (Washington County) and that in Washington (Tazewell County).

In Washington, Ill., hit by an EF-4 tornado with wind speeds of over 160 mph, preliminary reports indicate more than 400 homes destroyed or with major damage.  More than 120 persons were injured in this community of 15,000.

Significant damage is also reported in Indiana where an EF-2 tornado struck near Kokomo. Forty-nine homes were destroyed and another 16 receive major damage.  Twenty-six homes were destroyed in Indiana’s Howard County.  CWS is waiting for results of damage assessment for other parts of Indiana.

In Missouri, there are preliminary reports of wind damage near St. Louis. Wind and tornado damage is also being assessed in Ohio, Kentucky, Wisconsin and other states.

Damage assessment and initial rescue and response actions continue in the affected states.

CWS emergency response specialists are in close contact with the many organizations involved to identify the needs of the survivors. These include state, regional and local VOADs (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster), FEMA, state emergency management agencies, interfaith organizations, CWS member communions and many other agencies.

CWS will provide material goods as requested, to include CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, CWS Hygiene Kits, CWS Baby Care Kits, CWS School Kits and CWS Blankets.

As the communities become ready, CWS emergency response specialists will provide training, mentoring and/or funding to existing and newly forming long-term recovery groups. These small grants are commonly used for office equipment and supplies, telephone and internet services, transportation and personnel.

How to Help

Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be sent to your denomination/communion or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Donations may also be made online.  CWS thanks its member communions for the efforts to help restock our warehouses with material goods, such as CWS Clean Up Buckets, Hygiene Kits, Baby Kits and School Kits.

During disaster such as this now is the time to remember that the most important humanitarian donation that an individual can make is cash.

Concerning CWS material goods: Thanks to the great efforts of CWS communions, CWS has been able to help meet the immediate needs of the survivors of recent disasters. In recent months the demands have been great in the United States and across the globe and CWS warehouse stocks are rapidly being depleted. The most immediate need is for CWS Baby Care Kits and CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets. CWS also has ongoing demand for its other material goods, including CWS Blankets, CWS Hygiene Kits and CWS School Kits. Generous support to restock the warehouses will help CWS respond to current and future needs of disaster survivors. Information on various kits that can be compiled and donated to CWS can be found here.

If you have other supplies that you believe may be of help, contact a CWS emergency response specialist to see whether the materials can be used and, if so, where.

CWS is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.